Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 23

By Kenjiro Hata. Released in Japan as “Hayate no Gotoku!” by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.

This volume wasn’t really supposed to be read on its own – it came out in Japan at the same time as Vol. 24, as it’s one big epic storyline resolution. But here in North America, where Hayate’s sales sort of suck, we get this volume now and Vol. 24 in late summer. That said, it’s not like this is incoherent without the other volume, it just leaves us with another nasty cliffhanger. More to the point, everything is finally tying together as the universe sets out to make Hayate’s life miserable, and he helps it along as best he can.


Not that Hayate is the only one suffering – we get the aftermath of Hina’s confession, as her heart is shattered into little pieces but she still manages to say the right things to Hayate. There are many characters in this series who are at their best when they’re absolutely miserable, and Hina’s is one of the bigger examples. That said, I suspect she’s not simply going to sit back at the hotel for the rest of this arc and let Athena steal the show…

Nor is Nagi, though she doesn’t really appear much in this volume. Hayate’s self-worth is tied directly to the fact that Nagi ‘saved’ him from his old life, and therefore when Mikado (who is really being a horrible old bastard here) forces him to choose between Nagi’s happiness (as losing all her wealth will destroy her) and Athena’s (as she may very well die if Hayate doesn’t intervene), it’s snot surprising that he freezes up and goes into a bit of a blue funk. It’s not so much a Lady or the Tiger choice as it is two kinds of tiger.

And then there’s Athena (who has a comedy relief servant, Makina, who is appropriately a bit of a dark Hayate to Athena’s Dark Nagi). There’s a bit of possession by evil going on, so her desire to get the King’s Jewel at all costs it wrapped up in that. Her feelings for Hayate seem to be genuine, though, and it’s telling that the evil inside her is allowed to take over when she realizes that Nagi is the one who saved him and the most important woman in his life right now. This leads to summoning giant demonic spirits to kill Hayate once and for all. Thank goodness for Isumi…

…who arrives just in time to lose her first battle in the entire series (as possessed-Athena points out to her, “You’ve never had to face someone stronger than you, have you?), so our heroes have to run away for a bit. Isumi also gets to be infodump girl, informing Hayate that even if they destroy the stone, the shock of the thing that’s currently possessing her being destroyed may kill Athena. He really does have no good options here. Well, except this is a shonen manga, so he can go back and plead with her to listen to reason some more. I suspect that’s what we’ll see next.

At the time this came out, a lot of folks were wondering if this might be the conclusion, and if Hayate would actually end up with Athena. No fear (it’s up to Vol. 39 in Japan now), but this is still an excellent buildup to something big. Can Hayate win despite his amazing powers of self-hatred?

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